People are willing to pay for safety from Covid-19

Women and men alike are realizing the dangers of COVID-19, including when they are driving their vehicles or in a shared car.

Anti-microbial coatings are a desired feature for high-touch surfaces inside a personal vehicle, including door handles, steering wheels, displays, and consoles, according to a consumer survey conducted by IHS Markit.

The survey across five major markets indicates an increase in demand, with 54% of the nearly 800 consumers saying they were “very interested” or “interested” in having an anti-microbial coating in their next personal vehicle.

This technology adds specialized polymer coatings to deter viruses such as COVID-19 from remaining on the surface. While it is not economical to coat entire interior surfaces of a vehicle, IHS Markit expects OEMs and suppliers to deploy cost-effective countermeasures on critical surfaces.

According to IHS Markit’s research, the most common surface consumers interested in anti-microbial applications are interior door handles, the steering wheel, seats, touch screen display, and the center console. Other critical surfaces for anti-microbial coatings include exterior door handles, the gear shifter, and various touchpoints on the instrument panel.

“In an era where paying for additional options are not always welcomed by consumers when buying a new vehicle, nearly half of the respondents indicated they would be willing to pay more than USD 100 to have an anti-microbial coating,” said Kyle Davis, senior automotive analyst, UI/UX at IHS Markit. “This should signal to OEMs that they can offer these coatings as an optional addition to the vehicle going forward.”

Automakers and suppliers are developing applications for new and existing materials to be used in these applications, though none have been fully determined. Copper and its alloys continue to be the preferred choice since they exhibit natural anti-microbial properties. Recent studies have indicated that COVID-19 was not present on a copper surface four hours after exposure. However, the cost of copper coatings could be rather expensive.

Solutions that do not directly involve anti-microbial coatings are already securing a foothold in the automotive industry. One OEM has developed a solution that heats the vehicle’s interior to the point that significantly reduces the spread of COVID-19. That might work in the wintertime, but in States where the temperature exceeds 100F, it could be a disaster. Another tier-one supplier quickly developed a solution of their own, where an ultraviolet light (UV) can sterilize the interior of the vehicle. This solution does not only apply just for one’s personal vehicle but also for shared mobility platforms.

Ridesharing Preferences Also Impacted

Additionally, IHS Markit found that only 25% of consumers said that they will not use ridesharing after the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighty percent of those consumers expect their rideshare vehicles to have some disinfecting supplies going forward. Nearly half (48%) of the respondents said that they will still use ridesharing going forward, but will not as much as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While the growing importance of mobility as a service before the pandemic was forecast to challenge car ownership norms in the future, the COVID-19 dynamic has emphasized the underlying importance of having a personal vehicle, and consumers are re-thinking their personal transportation needs as they adapt in this new environment,” said Davis.